It’s my birthday, I’ll count if I want to

I’ve never been afraid to go places few women have gone before, and to take names and kick butt.
Thanks to my father, I learned to rebuild the engine in a 1964 Dodge Dart so I had a car to drive in 1974. (I named it Rocinante and aimed it at windmills.)
I won’t reiterate the litany of “firsts” I punched through as a woman in the journalism bidness. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time busting through the “first” wall: The first woman photographer, the first woman investigative reporter, the first woman business editor, the first woman editor, the first … well, you get the drift.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the company of a lot of white guys trying to do twice as well as they did so I could earn a place at the table.
Today, my 54th birthday present was to not be the lone woman at a tech conference.
We were a crowd and a tribe! A flock and a pod! A gaggle and a group!
We were not alone.
About 22 percent of the people registered for Drupal Camp Austin 2009 were women.
I know. I counted.
That’s extraordinary in a world where six percent of people in Open Source software are women. In Drupal, the numbers are more like 12 percent, but that’s still a dreadful minority.
Thanks to @laurenroth, @shana_e and @equintanilla @vitorious @chanaustin this was not a “lone woman” conference.
Women came for many reasons, including that there were people at this conference who look like them. Anglo, Asian American, African American – we were there.

In every session there were from 13 percent to 29 percent women.
I chronicled the ratio in every session I was in, to the dismay of one South Austin cretin (please click to see what an idiot he is.)
It’s my birthday, I’ll count if I want to!!
The tally tells me how far we have come. Thank you for such a meaningful birthday present!

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Gazpacho, cool soup for a hot day

We’d been married less than 10 years when we bought this old house on Mahncke Park, but our cookbook collection was already big enough to demand its own built-in bookcase in the kitchen.

Each of the books has a story, which kind of explains why this librarian’s daughter thought it made sense to house Like Water for Chocolate on the top shelf, along with the other Mexican cookbooks.

The one I opened today is A Taste of San Francisco, published in 1990, a dog-eared testament to the nearly four years we spent living in El Cerrito and commuting to work in San Francisco.

The newspaper wages were so low then, relative to the cost of living, that we could only afford to go out to eat about four times a year.

What I could afford was to cook my way through the book, learning the great restaurants and the works of 80 Bay Area chefs through the pages of the “culinary variety show” compiled by the San Francisco Symphony.

Today, as it has done many times before, the book falls open by itself to the very well-loved page 214, which has a recipe for Gazpacho from talk show host Narsai David, of KCBS Saturday Kitchen fame.

The photo here is from another hot summer day four years ago, when I gathered the Gazpacho ingredients on the kitchen counter and realized that both the components and the soup are art — as easy on the eyes as they are on the tongue.

Gazpacho

1 cucumber, peeled

1 large red onion, peeled

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and deribbed

1 pound tomatoes, peeled

3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled

3 or 4 sprigs fresh basil

1 cup clam juice or chicken stock

1/4 cup wine vinegar

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

2 cups tomato sauce

Juice of 1 orange

Tabasco or other hot sauce

Grated zest of 1/2 orange

*my optional additions:

Peeled avocado halves or quarters

cooked baby shrimp or crab meat

Instructions

Finely chop 1/2 cup of each of the cucumber, onion, bell pepper and tomato and place in a soup tureen.

Place remaining cucumber, onion, bell pepper and tomato in a blender or food processor. Add garlic and basil. Add as much of the clam juice or stock as needed to obtain a smooth puree; add to the soup tureen. Stir in vinegar, oil, tomato sauce and orange juice. Season with hot sauce to taste. Add orange zest. Cover tureen and refrigerate for 2 or 3 hours to let flavors marry.

* Place avocado half in soup bowl, spoon shrimp into the cavity where the seed was, then ladle Gazpacho around and over the avocado.

Selling the free stuff for $14.99

What if you give away the polished and edited content, but then put a price tag on the user-generated content?

People will buy it.

Those of us who have solicited so-called user-generated content know that there’s just about nothing more popular than people’s own stuff.

The numbers are overwhelming and consistent.

When it snowed on Valentine’s Eve in 2004 in San Antonio, we were overrun with reader-submitted photos of the miraculous, 1/8-inch dusting. So we posted a mini-slideshow on MySanAntonio.com, and it got the most pageviews on the site for a month.

Ask folks to send in pictures of their pets, their Christmas lights — whatever — and you’re likely to get buried in an avalanche of voluntary contributions and a subsequent pageview frenzy.

While the trained, credentialed and degreed-journos in newsrooms ponder this, one retailer is running with it.

San Antonio-based Central Market grocery store solicited Hatch green chile recipes from customers across Texas last summer. Now those recipes are bound into a book “un-edited & un-tested,” and the grocer is charging $14.99 for the raw deal.
Free recipes for sale

And guess what? People are buying it.

Elsewhere in the store, customers can pick up 3×5 index cards with chef-tested recipes for free.

But this book of unedited people’s stuff is worth money.

If news organizations could for one moment stop being so arrogant and snooty about citizen journalism/user-generated content, they could learn something here.

People don’t confuse their own stuff with the “pro” stuff.

And they really like their own stuff.

They’ll even pay money for it!

Update: Here’s a related piece at the NYTimes Bits blog, “On eBay, Some Profit by Selling What’s Free.” And the TechDirt blog riffs on that, with this: “Content Industry Could Learn From eBay Seller Turning a Profit with Public Domain Content.”